Five Bands You Should Check Out If You Like Metal, But Hate Vocals

Five Bands You Should Check Out If You Like Metal, But Hate Vocals

You head over to a band's YouTube or Bandcamp page because your computer will never physically (or emotionally) recover MySpace giving it herpes, and Justin Timberlake be damned, you're never going back to THAT place.

Very interesting things are happening with the guitars, drums, and bass, all of it very encouraging. But then the vocals kick in ... and they are fucking horrible. It is a sense of betrayal and false promise that rivals the moment that the house lights at the club turn on, and the sexy guy or girl you've been courting all night and were looking forward to going home with turns out to be uh, not even remotely attractive.

Luckily, there are plenty of bands out there that have realized that they are capable of making fantastic music happen without vocals. This has been a growing movement especially within the heavy metal genre, which has seen a boom in recent years of bands choosing to forge a vocal-less metallic path. The following list doesn't just include bands that can dazzle with super-insane technical ability either, there's also a few bands here that are just fucking good at rocking out and making you bang your head. Here are Five Bands You Should Check Out If You Like Metal, But Hate Vocals:


Since forming in 2001, this Chicago quartet's label history includes stints on Aaron Turner's post-metal/experimental rock label HydraHead Records and Greg Anderson's doom/stoner/black-metal label Southern Lord Records, their current label home. The fact that Pelican fits in perfectly with the rosters of both labels is a testament to the diversity of their sound, as the crowd at a typical Pelican show is equally filled with Rivers Cuomo-looking short-haired kids with dark-rimmed glasses, and long-haired burly dudes with beards. Though the crowd at their next L.A. show may be filled more with the long-haired burly dudes, since it will be at Southern Lord's Power Of The Riff festival on August 13th at the Echo and Echoplex, alongside legendary metal greats like Pentagram and Eyehategod.

Karma To Burn

One of the granddaddies of the "instru-metal" scene, Karma To Burn returned two years ago from a decade-long hiatus and has made haste (and most definitely not waste) in making up for lost time since re-convening in 2009. Despite hailing from West Virginia, Karma To Burn fit in quite nicely in the '90s "desert rock" scene alongside bands such as Kyuss and Fu Manchu. During their hiatus, bassist Rich Mullins ended up joining Year Long Disaster. After the reunion of Karma To Burn, a merger of sorts between the two bands saw their new album V contain three songs featuring Year Long Disaster vocalist Daniel Davies, however he has already left the band, allowing them to return to being an incredibly powerful, uh, power trio.


One of the few bands around today that can jam and rock out but still hold the interest of the listener, San Diego psych-rock trio Earthless is not concerned with showing you how many notes they can play. They simply want to rock out, rock out for a long time, and want everyone to have a good trip while they are rocking out. While 2005's Sonic Prayer and 2007's Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky are both epic studio journeys that take the listener through many hills and valleys while re-assuring you that the trip will end well, the band really shines in the live environment, as evidenced on 2008's Live At Roadburn. Unfortunately, drummer Mario Rubalcaba's current membership in Keith Morris' new punk group OFF! has not allowed Earthless to perform live as often this year as in the past. However, they are still able to make the trek up to Los Angeles often enough that no one has a good enough excuse to not get out and see them at some point.

Tia Carrera

You know how we said Earthless is one of the few bands around today that can jam and rock out but still hold the listener's interest? This is one of the other ones. The band name is similar to that of the woman who played Wayne Campbell's love interest in the cinematic classics Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2, but the music is a helluva lot more awesome. The Austin-based Tia Carrera bears a similar psychedelic rock sound to Earthless, but also has a slight touch of space-rock riffage. Their newest album Cosmic Priestess conjures up a concoction that is the aural equivalent of galactic space dust mixed with a dash of bongwater.

And finally ...


Animals As Leaders

Probably the heaviest band covered in this article, Animals As Leaders burst onto the metal scene two years ago with their self-titled debut release on Prosthetic Records. Guitarist and lead songwriter Tosin Abasi had been kicking around the D.C.-metalcore scene for years with his previous band Reflux, but when that outfit disbanded Tosin decided to explore how far he could push himself as a guitarist with his newest endeavor. With guitar histrionics that have melted faces on tours alongside bands as diverse as death metal stalwarts Vital Remains and Decapitated, mainstream emo-rock groups like Circa Survive and Thursday, and whatever the fuck Dredg is called these days, one may think there's a worry that Animals As Leaders might get lost in the "look at all the notes I can play" rabbit-hole, however Tosin's upbringing in the metalcore/hardcore scene grounds the band from forgetting to balance the technicality with Meshuggah-like "chug" riffs that anyone can head bang to.

Animals As Leaders will be rolling through town this Sunday night, when one of the more musician-nerd friendly metal tours of the year will drop into the Key Club. Not only will Animals As Leaders preview songs from their upcoming new album, but supporting them will be L.A.'s own Intronaut, who are always reliable at making intelligent metal fans jaws drop with their Isis-style post-metal filtered through a haze of stoner doom and jazz-fusion, as evidenced on their appropriately-titled 2010 release Valley Of Smoke; Last Chance To Reason, whose most recent album Level 2 welds together the sound of video-game music with death metal (which makes sense when you factor in that they made a 16-bit side-scrolling shoot 'em up mini-game accompanied by songs from said album); and Evan Brewer (of technical death-metal rising stars The Faceless), who decided that even having guitars and drums were unnecessary on his new solo album Alone, which literally consists of nothing but sounds made with a bass guitar ... whatever, nerd.

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